ADFS vs Okta – What’s the Difference (Pros and Cons)

ADFS vs Okta – What’s the Difference (Pros and Cons). Both software’s are from Microsoft and rely on single sign on capability.  To illustrate, they both make accessing multiple apps simultaneously much easier.  Whilst, there is need to sign on every time you open the new app. 

On one had we have ADFS. In this case, it uses claims based access control authorization. Helps to keep applications secure. On the other, there is Okta, tool that manages access to identity for institutions and companies, as well as private individuals.

In this article, I will introduce these two software’s and explain how they work. In addition, I will present their benefits and their advantages and disadvantages. In the final section, I will talk about how they differ from each other.

Shall we start on ADFS vs Okta – What’s the Difference (Pros and Cons).

What is a ADFS?

First of all, ADFS is a component developed by Microsoft to provide single sign on (SSO) services. In addition, App Access enables users of Windows Server operating systems to perform single sign on across enterprise boundaries.

Secondly, ADFS uses a claims based access control authorization model to ensure the security of applications that use federated identities. With claims based authentication,is the process of identifying a user using a set of identity requirements. After the claims are fitted into a token that is protected by the identity provider.

How Does ADFS Work?

Thirdly, ADFS then provides users with a single SSO claim. In this case it allows to access multiple applications and systems. Remember, even if they are on different networks. Thanks to claims based authentication, it authenticates users based on a set of “assertions” about their identity based on trusted tokens.

Enterprise federation servers authenticate users using standard Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS). In short, AD DS issues a token that contains a series of claims about the user. That includes their identity within the organization.

On the other side of the enterprise (the resource side), another federation server validates the token. In like fashion, it provides another token to allow the local server to accept the claimed identity. Thus, this allows the system to provide controlled access to its resources. No requirement for user to directly authenticate the application.

Key Benefits of ADFS

Easy account management – Imagine a scenario where an employee at a partner organization has a new role and needs access to a different set of your web applications? Thanks to ADFS, the request is submitted.  In short, the request reflects the employee’s current roles and permissions. Due to ADFS function, it allows you to use partner prompts to control access to your applications and employee access is updated instantly.

Simpler account deactivation – What happens, if an employee with access to partner resources is fired? Simply put, with ADFS, an employer can remove an employee’s access to all other partner organizations. Without this benefit, employers will need to contact each partner organization individually. As a whole, former employees will still have access to your vital information. In nutshell, the major security threats are avoided.

Hassle free account credential management – With new on premises accounts for employee partners, you typically need a way to manage the credentials they use for authentication. Specifically with ADFS, your organization no longer needs to revoke, change, or reset these credentials. Why? Because they are managed by partner organizations.

Interoperability – Using a federation specification called WS Federation, AD FS Unified Identity Management System works well with other products that support Web Services Architecture. Even environments that do not use this model (Microsoft Windows Identity) are offered.

SSO, federation – The SSO feature allows partners to share a simplified experience when they use an organization’s web application. In addition, IT deploy federation servers across multiple organizations and support transactions between federation partners.

What are the components of ADFS?

Federation Server – Contains the tools to manage the trust link between business partners. In particular, it handles authentication requests from external users and hosts a security token service. Then, it issues claim tokens based on AD credential validation.

ADFS Web Server – Hosts the ADFS web proxy server. On balance, it manages the security tokens and authentication cookies, that are sent to it for authentication.

Federation Server Proxy – The proxy server is installed on the organization’s extranet to which external clients connect when requesting a security token. After that they forward these requests to the federation server. ITU’s servers are not directly exposed to the Internet, which lowers security risks.

Active Directory – The identity information that ADFS uses is stored in active directory.

Disadventages of ADFS

General complexity – Deploying, configuring and maintaining an ADFS solution is not a simple task. In addition, every time an application is added to the ADFS service. As a result, the process is time consuming and technically complex, which reduces computing speed.

Security risks – The default installation of ADFS is not as secure as it should be. To ensure that this is done correctly, the IT department must perform several steps. Since ADFS runs on Windows servers, it must also be hardened and secured to ensure the solution is risk free.

Added Maintenance Expenses – in particular, organizations must take into account the continuing operational costs of maintaining and running the service. Depending on how it is set up, ADFS may add additional costs and these are more than expected. Costs can be directly (more infrastructure costs) and indirectly (increased complexity costs).

Regardless of the maintenance cost, servers must be patched, updated and regularly backed up. Also, employees with advanced technical capabilities are required to manage trust between AD domains.

Next in this article blog about ADFS vs Okta – What’s the Difference (Pros and Cons) is to find out about Okta. 

What is Okta?

Second identity tool is Okta. Another choice of our article ADFS vs Okta for identity management service. Equally, it gives access to any employer in any app on any device. Additionally, it is safe to use and protect our sensitive data. 

Another key point, is that it, is hosted on a secure server. Above all, it uses cloud technology to help businesses manage and secure user authentication to applications. Consequently, also offers several other services. Most notable is single sign on, one of the best software, due to its unique feature. Well, the features allow users to sign in to multiple applications through a single and centralized process.

How Does Okta Work?

Interestingly, Okta uses Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML). Another is Cross Origin Identity Management (SCIML) and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) technologies. Their job is to provide access to multiple applications with a single set of credentials. After all, to manage user identities in the cloud. Depending on the local application or service. Therefore, alerts are issued when there is a connection from a geographic location outside the company’s country.

More to mention, Okta allows you to add many applications, regardless of the language used, to help you work better.

The first step is to log in to the Okta portal and add the apps you need to your tab. Hence the Single sign on allows access to multiple domains and applications. Login activity is kept in a folder. Even more, Okta recommends that its users create a unique password or a unique personal question as a secondary security measure.

Key Benefits Of Okta

  • An Active Directory maintains a record of the SSO’s.
  • Let’s you work carefree remotely.
  • Diminishes the threat of cybercrimes like Identity thefts and online fraud.
  • User interface of Okta allows you to modify permission policies and add and remove users as personal work apps are added for integration.
  • The single sign on feature can be implemented on any app.
  • Multi factor authentication can be set up when accessing sensitive data.
  • Develops user trust.
  • Reduces IT friction and saves time, by assisting innovation.
  • Cloud operating system helps remove the headache of maintaining a manual book or directory of ‘who’ has accessed  to ‘what’.

Pros of Okta

Faster Office 365 Deployments – To meet the organization’s needs, they chose OKTA Office 365. Indeed, it supports response time, maintaining Office 365 and web applications.

Adaptive security – The primary use of adaptive security is to protect the organization. So, OKTA’s adaptive security provides strong authentication to support third party multi factor authentication. They are smart cards, U2F, Google Authenticator and more.

Automated management of the life cycle of workers- With automated workflow new employees can have the apps they want the first time, as they sit down at their new desk. Or automatically old employees lose access to the app.

Simplified Single Sign On using Active Directory: The main advantage of choosing OKTA is that we can implement SSO from Active Directory in less time.

Easy to use – No local MFA server is required.  

Mobile password manager application – Password manager in Okta app allows users to access their SSO dashboard anytime, anywhere.

Pricing – More so, Okta offers best value for money. Price has not gone up for a long time and its competitive price has increased its price several times.

Cons of Okta

  • Minimum contracts make Okta a tough sell for very small businesses.
  • Although this platform offers reliability and ease of access and identity management. I would like its user interface to be a bit more modern and visually pleasing.
  • Compared to other alternatives in the market, Okta is more affordable.
  • User interface can be more customizable and add more OOB features to integrate and create custom APIs.
  • Support should be more responsive to critical issues at any time.

Next with ADFS vs Okta – What’s the Difference (Pros and Cons) is to report on differences between them. 

What is the difference between ADFS vs Okta?

ADFS Application integrations

  •  IT Admins build and maintain each integration.

Okta Application integrations

  • Thousands of pre integrated applications.
  • No need to configure and maintain application integrations.

ADFS Availability

  • You must configure, install and manage.
  • Availability and redundancy.
  • Requires multiple servers (installation and failover).
  • Maintenance also required as applications evolve.

Okta Availability

  • Always working with zero downtime.
  • No changes required to AD infrastructure.
  • 100% multi tenant solution.

ADFS access and user management

  • Every application may require changes.
  • No concept of user importing or matching.
  • Must create and manage custom AD attributes.

Okta access and user management

  • Access management in Okta let’s you automatically be configured for all integrated applications.
  • Simply and easily add, change or remove users and access.
  • Import directly from AD, security groups.
  • Control access to all your applications.
  • Map different username formats with ease.

ADFS low total cost of ownership

  • Oppositely, ADFS requires not only multiple servers, but also a symmetric environment for staging and testing. Note that, a load balancer is usually required in addition to ADFS server. As a result this ensures high availability.
  • Even so, the could costs increase with additional integrations. Later, there is a need to include ongoing hardware maintenance costs of 200 to 1,000 hours per year. Of course, as servers, integrations and complexity increases.

Okta low total cost of ownership

  • Ownership costs in Okta goes beyond ADFS. Reconnecting to the cloud in Active Directory is required to provide user and delegate authentication. With its lightweight and modern proxy architecture, Okta supports your existing local folders. Even so, it supports existing Windows devices you’ve deployed. 
  • No dedicated servers and no firewall changes are required. Just install multiple Okta AD agents on servers in your Active Directory domain. In return, Okta automatically handles load balancing and failover.

ADFS reporting

  • Reporting in AD FS application activity report lists off all AD FS applications in your organization. For example, active user login in the last 30 days. Additionally, in the report you will find how ready the apps are for migration to Azure AD.  But the report doesn’t show relying parties in AD FS such as Office 365.

Okta reporting

  • Another key point, in Okta,  the reporting has easy access to user reports for compliance purposes.
  • Dashboard of metrics are available to see overall health of users and applications.

Subscription pricing

  • Subscription in Okta connects back to AD using a lightweight proxy. What is more, it doesn’t require dedicated servers or firewall changes.  Besides, no on site servers or complex software is required.  To clarify, also the implementation requires little capital outlay. Subscription model in Okta charges $2 per user per month.

Complex environments solution

  • Important thing about Okta, is that it manages complex solutions with ease. Multiple AD groups, different username formats, or multiple Office 365 tenants can create complex administrative environments. For example, companies that do M&A frequently (and don’t want all companies to have a joint trust) can use Okta to set up individual access.

Thank you for reading ADFS vs Okta – What’s the Difference (Pros and Cons). We shall conclude. 

ADFS vs Okta – What’s the Difference Conclusion

Summing up Okta has lower deployment cost compared to AD FS. Moreover, it solves more complex environments

But, if you are more comfortable with Microsoft products and infrastructure then it is better to choose AD FS.  If you do not like monthly subscription costs, you should also go for ADFS. Obviously first you may pay the AD FS deployment costs. 

Seriously speaking, today’s environments are more  and more secure. Overall organizations spend time implementing best solutions for the environments to maintain the highest levels of satisfaction for their end users.

Any downside of Okta and AD FS? What is the best solution for your organization? It depends. Ultimately, it’s about analysing your current project management. Total cost of each solution also plays a big role. Last of all how your solution aligns with your business goals.

If you wanna learn more about ADFS click here.

Avatar for Kamil Wisniowski
Kamil Wisniowski

I love technology. I have been working with Cloud and Security technology for 5 years. I love writing about new IT tools.

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